“In a crystal-clear style, Petesch involves the reader with her three-dimensional characters who are portrayed neither patronizingly, nor melodramatically, though her sympathy and understanding are obvious. Very highly recommended.”
“New readers will quickly become admirers, and long-time admirers will find this collection…a choice example of her ability to infuse voice, compassion, mood and setting into her stories of the human comedy. Both new and old friends will have the added luxury of a novella, Justina of Andalusia, which weaves all the author’s skills in an enticing counterpoint of epistolary and narrative.”
This collection of stories is, like Petesch’s previous work, distinguished by its brilliant lyrical intensity and by characters who are stunningly alive. It is a powerful collection about impassioned cultural conflicts in present-day Spain and Mexico; it is also a book about ourselves—how we have failed to love the Earth and have squandered our resources.
In the title story, it is Justina Olivia who breaks the moral law of her village in an unforgettable love story. In “Senior Coloma’s Class,” a mother of grown children learns to read, and learns, too, that the Tree of Knowledge bears unpredictable fruit. In a story set in Monterrey, Mexico, Dr. Melindez Gutierrez dedicates his life to the barrios of the poor, while in another story also set in Monterrey, “Manolo’s Secret,” an Indian street beggar shares her life with a young immigrant from Spain.
These remarkable characters can only add to Petesch’s wide reputation not only for creating people out of pathos and courage, but also for a prose style throughout that is luminous and captivating.
Justina of Andalusia and Other Stories is well suited to American literature classes, to Women’s Studies courses, Latin American Studies programs, and to American Studies programs in the United States and abroad. It would be particularly useful as a text in cross-cultural programs.
Natalie L. M. Petesch has published ten previous books of fiction, including the Swallow Press titles Duncan’s Colony, Flowering Mimosa, Justina of Andalusia, and The Immigrant Train. She lives in Pittsburgh.
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